UKRAINE: Lack of safety checks for vulnerable refugees is branded ‘insane’

Chance for exploitation is terrifying, says worried host

Friday, 8th April — By Isabelle Stanley

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Dr Caroline Elton wants to help but has been shocked by how little checks there are

VULNERABLE Ukrainian women and their children are arriving in Camden to move in with their hosts before any safety checks are carried out – under government guidance described as “insane”.

In one example revealed to the New Journal, Yuliia and her son Denys, seven, arrived from the war-torn country on Sunday to meet their new host family for the first time.

But delays in the system meant they arrived before any checks were carried out on the host, and the council was not even aware of their presence in the country.

The host, Dr Caroline Elton, immediately alerted the council. She said: “The chance for exploitation is terrifying. I know this woman and I care about her deeply. But the system is extraordinarily poor and the possibility of people going into a really unsafe house with no checks is very high.”

Dr Elton applied to host Yuliia and Denys through the Homes for Ukraine scheme a few weeks ago and apart from a standard acknowledgement, they heard nothing back.

Then, out of the blue, Yuliia was emailed two visas and approved to travel to the UK.

Dr Elton’s husband Andrew Franklin met Yuliia at Luton airport on Sunday night. But no one had come to check the family’s home in advance and no DBS checks had been carried out.

Dr Elton said: “I rang the council and they didn’t even know they had arrived. There must be a disconnect between whoever approved the visa and the council. It’s totally insane.”

The council said the government did not tell them Yuliia and her son were coming until Monday morning, when they had already arrived. Now, it is scrambling to catch up with checks.

Fortunately, Yuliia and Denys – who were living in Kyiv before Vladimir Putin began his invasion and the bombing began – are safe in Dartmouth Park with Dr Elton, who has been able to fill in for the council providing assistance. The staff at NatWest bank in Camden Town helped them set up a bank account, and Denys has been offered a place at a school.

He is settling in and has asked if anyone has a dog in the area he could walk. However, the lack of regulation has had another impact – Yuliia has not been told how to provide her biometrics, and cannot work or access financial support until she does.

A government spokes­person said: “We have designed our Homes for Ukraine scheme specifically to have safeguards in place, including robust security and background checks on all sponsors. No visa will be issued until the Home Office have completed checks on all adults in a sponsor’s household as well as on the applicants from Ukraine. At the time of application, local councils are notified to begin DBS checks, which will be expedited by the Home Office, and so they can arrange in person visits”.

A Camden Council spokesperson said: “The council only started to receive details of refugees arriving in Camden from the Home Office at the end of last week but acted immediately to start contacting sponsors. The council is prioritising sponsors where a visa has been awarded by the Home Office and children are due to arrive or have arrived.

“All sponsors that we have been informed about will be receiving an email on next steps today. All those that have had a visa awarded and are expecting sponsored refugees to arrive imminently will be contacted by the end of the week where we will capture the information we need to complete checks and agree visits. All other sponsors that we have been notified about will start to be contacted from next week.”

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